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ALL ABOUT WHALES!
What is a Whale? Whale Information Sheets Anatomy and Behavior Extreme Whales Whale Myths Whale Evolution Whale Classification Whale Glossary Whale Activities Whale Index

Whale Classification
Mysticeti,
Baleen Whales
Odontoceti,
Toothed Whales
Archaeoceti
Extinct, Primitive Whales
Taxonomy and Cladistics

WHALE FOSSILS AND EVOLUTION:
Archaeoceti, The Ancient Whales
Basilosaurus (or Zeuglodon), a primitive, extinct whale about 65 ft (20 m) long, from the late Eocene Epoch (50 million years ago).

THE ORIGIN OF WHALES

Fossil remains indicate that whales and other cetaceans (the whales, dolphins, and porpoises) evolved from hoofed land mammals (even-toed ungulates or artiodactyls, related to sheep, pigs, deer, camels, and cows). These animals returned to the sea about 50 million years ago, during the Eocene Epoch.

Going back to the oceans required many adaptations for living in the water, including a backwards and upwards shift of the nostrils, coverings for the nostrils, a streamlined shape, loss of the rear limbs, change of the forelimbs into flippers, addition of flukes for swimming, modification of senses for use in the water, loss of most hair, and addition of a layer of insulating blubber.

The Archaeoceti were the first primitive whales to appear. They had tiny heads and pointed snouts with teeth. Some (like Pakicetus and Protocetus) still had vestigial rear limbs (flippers) from their land roving days. Modern-day whales have larger heads and blunter snouts. By the late Pliocene Era (1.8 million years ago), modern forms of Cetaceans were swimming in the seas.

Although there are many gaps in the fossil record of whales, discoveries are frequently being made. In 1989, Philip Gingerich (University of Michigan, USA) found fossilized whale feet in an ancient Egyptian sea bed, the Zeuglodon Valley. Recently, scientists from the University of Roorkee in India and the University of Michigan found the oldest-known whale fossil, Himalayecetus subathuensis, in India.

CLASSIFICATION OF EXTINCT WHALES

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
Phylum: Chordata (having a spinal cord)
Class: Mammalia (mammals)
Order: Cetacea (aquatic mammals)
Suborder: Archaeoceti (archaeocetes or zeuglodonts, extinct, primitive whales with teeth)


There are approximately 140 genera of extinct cetaceans. There are 40 genera of living cetaceans.


MISCELLANEOUS

Basilosaurus is the Official State Fossil of Alabama and Mississippi.

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EnchantedLearning.com is a user-supported site.
As a bonus, site members have access to a banner-ad-free version of the site, with print-friendly pages.
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ad
(Already a member? Click here.)
EnchantedLearning.com
ALL ABOUT WHALES!
What is a Whale? Whale Information Sheets Anatomy and Behavior Extreme Whales Whale Myths Whale Evolution Whale Classification Whale Glossary Whale Activities Whale Index

Whale Classification
Mysticeti,
Baleen Whales
Odontoceti,
Toothed Whales
Archaeoceti
Extinct, Primitive Whales
Taxonomy and Cladistics


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